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Ringolsby: MLB Fixes All-Star Game Fan Voting



This time, Major League Baseball did not need a voting scandal.

This time, Major League Baseball was out front in addressing what was an ongoing concern about all-star voting.

This time, Major League Baseball adjusted the voting rules for the All-Star Game without taking the vote away from its fans, which happened 62 years ago.

MLB revoked the fan vote in 1957, when the folks in Cincinnati were found to have taken advantage of laissez-faire voting rules that resulted in an initial National League lineup that included Reds at every position, except for the Cardinals’ Stan Musial at first base.

The commissioner’s office investigated the situation and found that, among other things, the Cincinnati Enquirer had printed ballots pre-marked with exclusively Reds players, making it easier for fans to stuff the ballot box.

Commissioner Ford Frick addressed the situation by replacing Reds outfielders Gus Bell and Wally Post with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays, and then took the vote away from fans for more than a decade.

This time, MLB intervened before a scandal arose, and without penalizing an entire fan base for the actions of supporters for one of 30 teams.

This time, you might say, MLB got political—and the plan worked perfectly.

This year, the all-star fan voting had a primary—where every position had a player listed from each team—but it also added a second vote, in which the top three vote-getters at each position (top six in the outfield) advanced to a final vote.

This voting system was starkly different than the free-for-all system instituted in 1970, when the all-star vote was returned to the fans. Under the old system, the top vote-getter at each position earned the nod as the All-Star Game starter.

And the results for the 2019 All-Star Game?

Not perfect, but awfully close. The eight National League starters and nine American League starters (which includes a DH) elected by the fans underscored that with the new voting system, the tendency for fan bases to flood the ballot box was negated.

Think about it.

Angels outfielder Mike Trout and Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado are the veterans of the starting lineups. Both are 28 years old. Trout, who also was the leading vote-getter, was in the starting lineup for the seventh time. Arenado started for just the third time.

The four other incumbents received starting spots for just the second time. They were Astros outfielder George Springer in the AL and Cubs shortstop Javier Baez, Cubs catcher Willson Contreras and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman in the NL.

The 11 first-time starter selections this year equaled the record established in 2016, but the incumbents this year had been elected to the starting lineup a combined 18 times, two fewer than the 2016 incumbents, who were DH David Ortiz (six), outfielders Trout (four) and Bryce Harper (three), second baseman Jose Altuve (three), and catchers Buster Posey (three) and Salvador Perez (two).

The Braves advanced a player from the primary to the finals at every position, but with the field of candidates reduced, the Braves wound up with two starters—Freeman and outfielder Ronald Acuña Jr.

The most dramatic example of how much voting trends changed from the primary to the finals was at second base in the NL, where Ozzie Albies of the Braves led in the primary with 2,190,518 million votes.

In the finals, however, the winner of the starting spot at second base for the NL was Ketel Marte of the Diamondbacks, who had finished third in the primary with 1,102,419 votes. Marte, who also has started in center field and at shortstop for Arizona, went into the final week before the All-Star Game leading all NL second basemen in average (.308) and on-base percentage (.355) and had hit 20 home runs.

What happened? Well, with just three finalists at each position, fans were able to focus on whom they thought was actually the most deserving candidate, not necessarily the hometown favorite.

It carried over to the AL, where the Yankees had a finalist at every position, but just two of them wound up elected to the starting lineup: catcher Gary Sanchez and second baseman DJ LeMahieu.

The Astros had finalists at seven positions, but just three were elected as starters: third baseman Alex Bregman and outfielders Springer and Michael Brantley.

This year’s vote showed that the old system was broken, and there was a way to fix it

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CHANGING OF THE GUARD

The new All-Star Game voting system helped fans identify the most deserving candidates all around the diamond. In many cases, the winner turned out to be a first-time starte­r—not necessarily a brand name. That helped the National League field the youngest All-Star Game lineup ever with an average age of 25.75 years.

Pos American Team ASG Start
C Gary Sanchez Yankees 2nd 1st
1B Carlos Santana Indians 1st 1st
2B DJ LeMahieu Yankees 3rd 1st
3B Alex Bregman Astros 2nd 1st
SS Jorge Polanco Twins 1st 1st
OF Mike Trout Angels 8th 7th
OF George Springer Astros 3rd 2nd
OF Michael Brantley Astros 4th 1st
DH Hunter Pence Rangers 4th 1st
         
Pos National Team ASG Start
C Willson Contreras Cubs 2nd 2nd
1B Freddie Freeman Braves 4th 2nd
2B Ketel Marte D-backs 1st 1st
3B Nolan Arenado Rockies 5th 3rd
SS Javier Baez Cubs 2nd 2nd
OF Christian Yelich Brewers 2nd 1st
OF Cody Bellinger Dodgers 2nd 1st
OF Ronald Acuña Jr. Braves 1st 1st

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